Chula Vista Elementary School District is the largest K-6 district in the State of California, with 45 schools that serve a significant Spanish-speaking community. Efficiently and effectively engaging a community of this size and diversity is a challenge. Language can be a barrier to communication and make gathering community input a complex process. And when it comes to the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), ensuring equity and inclusivity is paramount to meeting the state’s mandates.
When the district decided to update the way they engaged their community on their LCAP, the leadership team chose ThoughtExchange. Chula Vista’s LCAP process was led by Superintendent Dr. Francisco Escobedo, who was selected as 2019 Superintendent of the Year for ACSA Region 18 before he left in 2021 to become the Executive Director of the National Center for Urban School Transformation (NCUST).
“Looking back at our first LCAP year in 2014, we recognized that we needed more efficient and effective tools. We saw ThoughtExchange as an opportunity to really expand and deepen the conversation with our educational partners,” Dr. Escobedo said.
ThoughtExchange’s ability to include English and Spanish speakers in the same conversation was a “non-negotiable necessity” for Chula Vista’s administration.
Making participation, and administration, more efficient
ThoughtExchange enabled Chula Vista to be far more efficient and effective in gathering thoughts and ideas from the entire learning community, which resulted in a much stronger LCAP. With more perspectives to draw on and a more inclusive approach to engagement, Dr. Escobedo felt confident that the district’s LCAP goals reflected the community’s needs.
Participation increased significantly from previous years thanks to ThoughtExchange’s simple online process that allows parents, staff, and community members to participate on any device and at any time. By ensuring broad participation, Chula Vista had a comprehensive view of what quality schooling looked like in their district, and where they should allocate resources.
“People could provide input in a format that was convenient to them, without interrupting their family time or their workday,” said Dr. Escobedo. “It gave us an avenue that was structured, purposeful, and ultimately, not only measurable but actionable. ThoughtExchange allows people to see comments from others in ways that a conversation or a standard survey doesn’t allow for.”
"ThoughtExchange ensures that the experience for Spanish speakers and English speakers is equal and parents feel like their voices carry the same weight regardless of the language they speak. This creates a more inclusive, more accessible participant experience.”
"ThoughtExchange allows people to see comments from others in ways that a conversation or a standard survey doesn’t allow for.”
Cross-platform accessibility increases reach
For Chula Vista, ThoughtExchange’s ability to deliver a “mobile-rich experience” is a key feature, given that a large percentage of the district’s community uses their smartphones to connect.
“Regardless of what device you use, the ThoughtExchange platform doesn’t get in the way of what’s most important—which is hearing our educational partners’ thoughts,” explained Dr. Escobedo. Because of the platform’s accessibility, Chula Vista was able to hear from more people and a broader cross-section of their community than ever before.
Multi-language process meets a high standard for equality
The district’s past engagement efforts set a high bar for language equity, with on-site interpreters at all of its meetings, and audio headsets for those in need of simultaneous interpretation, similar to a United Nations meeting.
Dr. Escobedo and his team felt it was paramount to uphold this same standard as they moved the LCAP conversation online.
ThoughtExchange provides the Chula Vista school community with a fully integrated English-Spanish language experience, an attribute that Dr. Escobedo says is critical for building trust with families of English learners.
In addition, using our multi-language engagement platform helped Chula Vista meet the state’s equity mandates for their LCAP and gain a better understanding of the district’s English language learners’ academic needs.
Chula Vista’s LCAP platform of choice
ThoughtExchange quickly surfaced valuable insights and ideas that the district used to inform LCAP refinements, which were adopted by its board of education.
“We’re moving to a level of nimbleness where we can capture information, make adjustments, and measure how we’re doing,” said Dr. Escobedo, “There’s a sweet spot we are looking for that doesn’t exhaust the end-user, but allows us to see how people are feeling at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year.”
Chula Vista certainly found that sweet spot, because years after they completed their first successful LCAP engagement process using ThoughtExchange, we’re still their community engagement platform of choice.